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Carvin SB5000 Bass

Review by: Joseph Dubbiosi

  WIHO Award!
 
             
  Features  Usability  Sound  Documentation & Product Support  Price  Other Comments
Contact Info  Overall Rating—Product Summary
 
   

 

Carvin SB5000 5-string Bass.

   
 

If you are looking for the classic Jazz bass look and feel, and classic tone that goes along with it,  but you don’t have time to wait until someone puts their prized beauty up for sale? Well, Carvin has an excellent alternative that is true to the vibe and tone but with a subtle cosmetic upgrade that makes for good times.
The Carvin SB5000 bass uses Carvin’s new J99A single-coil pickups which are very quiet and deliver a wide variety of tones. The overall look and feel are both excellent, and with primarily J-bass styling, you could easily mistake it for a vintage Jazz bass at first glance.

The quality of the woods and subtle touches like solid metal knobs, classic or modern inlay designs, and numerous custom options are too numerous to list here. Considering Carvin offers you the opportunity to custom spec the bass just the way you want it with only a short wait and a ten-day test drive to make sure you really love it, you can’t go wrong here if vintage vibe without the noise is your thing. Carvin has consistently delivered us award winning guitars that rival instruments double their price (thanks to their sell-direct advantage), and the SB5000 is no exception to the rule, easily earning another WIHO Award.

Features

4 Stars

Our Carvin SB5000 arrived in a classic rectangle black vinyl-covered hard case. When we opened the case, we were greeting by a beautiful, double-pickup J-style five string (it’s also available as a four-string). Our bass was a swamp ash, solid body bass with a clear coat natural wood finish. The neck and fretboard were Birdseye maple with stainless steel frets and abalone inlays in unique diamond shape.  All of the hardware including tuning keys, bridge and control knobs were chrome, and the pick guard were solid white.

Carvin SB5000 neck jointThe SB5000 comes with a four-bolt neck design that has a two-way adjustable truss rod. The SB5000 comes with a standard 34" scale neck, 14” radius, and 22 medium jumbo nickel frets, though our review bass had the optional stainless steel frets. Three fretboard options include Birdseye maple, maple, or rosewood. Carvin also offers several choices for inlays including mother of pearl dots, rectangle shapes, or the diamond shaped abalone inlays.

The two neck and bridge pickups are Carvin’s new J99A, J-type single featuring Alnico V magnets. They produce a very clear tone throughout the full range of the instrument. With a wide variety of available pickups, though, you can customize the bass further using the J99 at the neck and either a SP2 Soapbar humbucker, H50S humbucker, or the HB2 Alinico 5 humbucker by the bridge. This availability of so many pickups will give the user multiple choices to fine tune the bass and get the specific sound they are looking for.

There are four control knobs: volume, a push/pull tone control for passive or active tone contours, and active tone control on a double-stacked knob. Two nine-volt batteries power the electronics with easy access on the back. 


Usability

4 Stars

The Carvin SB5000 is ready to go the moment you unpack it — just tune up and play. Carvin does all the neck, bridge and pickup adjustments at the factory, and they even include two nine-volt batteries for the active electronics. Good quality Carvin medium-gauge strings were set up on our review bass, but you can always customize the string gauge when ordering the instrument. No need to do custom setups after you receive the bass, right?

There is a very easy to read one-sheet diagram that shows the function of each of the control knobs. The knobs move smoothly and feel tight so they won’t drift or change position if you are a very physically active player.

Carvin also provided strap locks that easily plugged into the existing strap buttons on the bass. This was a really neat detail because you don’t need to remove old strap buttons, and you can switch to and from using strap locks as you please. We liked this a lot.

Carvin SB5000 Bridge.The Carvin SB500 felt smooth and solid when played. The quality of the swamp ash body and the feel of the neck made this a very easy and comfortable bass to play, but as with the classic instrument it brings to mind, it’s on the heavier side overall weight-wise, which might not appeal to some players who favor lighter instruments (you’re probably in the same band with guitarists who complain about the weight of their Les Pauls, too).

With weight in mind, however, these basses do vary based on the block of wood used. If you order in-stock models from the website, weights are listed so you can opt for a lighter or heavier instrument, and if you custom order, Carvin will let you request that a lighter piece of body wood be used. Further, Carvin also offers a chambered body option that lowers the total weight of the bass by almost one pound, but if you’re going for that vintage tone, lay off the custom options.

The action was set perfectly with no buzzing or string height issues, and overall this was a very comfortable five-string neck to play.

We liked the Birdseye fretboard with stainless steel frets feel — very smooth to the touch, making this bass extremely pleasurable to take right to a gig or your recording studio. The back of the neck has an unfinished feel — just a light oil finish, enhancing the vintage vibe.

Sound

4 Stars

The SB5000 comes with two J-Style single-coil pickups that Carvin calls their J99A.These pickups have active electronics and Alnico V magnets. These pickups brought out a full, deep tone and also a great, clean mid and upper range. The control knobs allowed us to blend the neck and bridge pickups just like a vintage Jazz bass. The other two control knobs were for passive and active tone sweeps.

The passive knob is a push/pull (pull for passive and push for active) and the double-stacked control is active for bass and treble cut/boost with 18dB of cut and boost for each.

The variation and versatility of the passive and active tone controls allowed us to dial in several different tones and sounds. We found ourselves comparing the SB5000 to many basses in our collection, but given that we had a 1979 Fender Jazz bass in hand, it was easy to make direct comparisons to the instrument it was most obviously influenced by, and Carvin really nailed what they were after. The tone was solid, precise and clean, and after just a few twists of the dials, we got pretty darn close to matching the tone of our classic bass. The only difference — and a great one, was the J99A pickups were a lot quieter.

The SB5000 sounded excellent straight into a sound board at a recording studio as well as three different amps at our disposal including the Mesa/Boogie Titan V12, a Peavey MK III, and a Hartke 7000. This is an instrument we had a great time playing, though if your taste leans towards a more modern-voiced instrument, you might not be as excited as we were about the sound of the bass. If you love vintage tone but hate noise, the SB5000 will surely bring you to your happy place. 


Documentation and Product Support


3.5 Stars

Documentation for the SB5000 included one very detailed page of adjustments and routine maintenance and one page describing use of the volume and tone controls. Not much else is really necessary. We were able to adjust anything we needed based on these two documents. The maintenance document details how to adjust the bolt-on neck truss, intonation, bridge and pickup alignments and height, and also offers tips for cleaning and polishing.

Carvin’s product support is excellent. There are very well-trained and knowledgeable sales and technical support staff on the phone, and the website is packed with valuable information. We also received a very quick response when emailing a question or two.


Price


4 Stars

The SB5000 (MSRP $2,199) has a direct sale price of $1,049. This is for the base model without options, but includes the vintage style hard-shell case. Options such as finishes, gold hardware and pickups will add to the bottom line but overall, the price for an instrument of this quality and great sound would easy cost more from just about any other builder.

Carvin understands that you are buying without being able to try the instrument out in a store (unless you live in California near one of their locations), so the ten-day test drive with no obligation is a very nice touch. If you don’t like the bass, send it back for a full refund. But we would be hard pressed to find a reason to want to send it back. If you crave the look and sound of a vintage bass, the SB5000 delivers all that and more.


Contact Information

Carvin Guitars
www.carvinguitars.com


Overall Rating - Product Summary

   
   
Category Value Rating
Features 20% 4 Stars
Usability 25% 4 Stars
Sound 25% 4 Stars
Documentation & Support 10% 3.5 Stars
Price 20% 4 Stars

OVERALL RATING = 3.8, which earns it a WIHO Award!

3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended

 
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